Tag: Church

Two Questions to Find Deeper Relationships

Who would you say is the greatest friend you ever have? As you think about that person, you felt like you clicked. Proximity played an important role. You might have gone to high school or college together. No matter where you are today with them, you feel like you can pick up where you left off.

For some people, you have a close friend with whom you remain close to this day. Yet, many of us build a bond with a person or group of people and for various reasons we relocate or they do. Sometimes, we lose touch due to changing life stages.

On a regular basis, I help people try to get connected into small groups. My job title is even called Belong Director –the guy that helps you BELONG at a church. You and I pursue community to engage the Bible, pray together, and serve, but our larger hope is to find our tribe, the people with whom we can share life.

Let’s be honest. This process of finding deeper and more meaningful relationships is tricky. It’s far more art than science.
Each decade of our lives has more complications through changing life stages.
The effort it takes to meet new people can feel exhausting.
Even when we intentionally commit to a new group of people, we’re not always convinced it’s the right one.

An observation that I have seen in myself and others is this: we measure our new relationships by our best old relationships.

What do I mean by that? Remember the friend you answered in the first question? When you set out to find deeper community, ultimately you are looking for something similar to the good you had. Don’t get me wrong; there are consistent characteristics of great friendships that are universal. But there is a line of wanting to over-replicate something you already had.

When we measure our new relationships by the old ones, we will have a difficult time letting the new friendships grow naturally. In many ways, we’re asking for duplicates rather than originals. Our expectations could be ruining the beautiful reality of growing relationships.

You might find yourself in this spot. You moved to a new area or you long for deeper relationships. I want to leave you with two questions to pursue deeper relationships: What’s realistic to your life stage right now?

1. What’s realistic to your life stage right now?

Many people tell me that their most meaningful relationships came during their time in college and 20’s. Both these eras of our lives had copious amounts of availability and invites. Then our career responsibilities and family life changed. Start with what’s possible to develop now and manage your expectations.

2. Who are two-three people that I want to invest more time into?

I think we have to start with the people already around us. Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, we can either meet too many new people or not enough. Start with two-three people. Perhaps you meet with them one at a time and then move to a group setting. Begin by building the proximity so a deeper relationship can happen.

What insight can you give about finding deeper relationships? Share in the comment section below.

Photo produced by Phil Coffman

Meeting New People in Church

You have a choice. The Sunday morning routine begins. You find yourself in the same seat of your section. Next thing you know, a person who you have not met sits next to you. The internal questions begin to race through your mind. Should I say hello? Will I scare them off? What if I say something weird? How will they respond?

The choice comes down to greeting or letting them move on quietly. What choice do you usually make?

This situation can conjure up a host of emotions like fear and anxiety. Your response can result from having an extroverted or introverted personality.

Consider the role reversal. Whenever any of us walks into a new space, we hope someone will take the risk of meeting us. It alleviates a little of our anxiety and can help us get to know other people. This situation full of unknowns becomes more known.

Acknowledging the presence of a new person speaks volumes to what you believe about the Gospel. We welcome people warmly because Jesus has done the same for us. When you take the time to meet a person, you communicate their value as one created in the Image of God.

The next time you encounter a new person, rather than letting fear and anxiety keep you from meeting them, consider these steps:

1. Introduce Yourself and Find Out Their Name.

The first step can take the most courage. Take the time to not only find out their name, but remember it. You may want to use it two-three times in the conversation to help you remember it. You taking this first step helps a person feel noticed.

2. Ask Questions and Listen.

Once the introduction ends, carrying the conversation can become difficult. Start by asking, “Where are you from?” Most times that question will open the door to get to know a person. Then you can move to the question, “How did you find out about the church?” You might find similarity in your story. Most importantly, listen to what they say. You validate people by giving them the space to share their story.

3. Watch for Cues.

Most conversations happen before or after a worship gathering. If the gathering begins, be cognizant of a person wanting to get to service on time. At the end of service, a person may have to pick up their kids or go to another event.

A couple of cues to end a conversation: checking their phone, nervous tapping, looking around, and mentioning they need to go. Cues for staying in conversation includes eye contact, positive flow of conversation, and a relaxed posture.

4. Avoid the Pass Off.

You know the feeling of getting your phone call transferred. Sometimes in our exuberance to help someone connect at church, we immediately want to introduce them to other people. Remember how participating in a new setting can become overwhelming. You are a living human being talking to another living human being.

If a person has a specific question and they want the answer, then that would be an appropriate time to connect with a church leader. Recognize the next steps the person wants to take. Often, they want to start by getting to know a few people before taking a next step.

5. Invite follow up.

When you end the conversation, offer to exchange emails. Making a connection can make the difference between coming back to a church the following week – or not. People feel welcomed when you follow up with them. It speaks volumes to them feeling important if a person takes the time to make themselves available.

Also, invite them to events at the church. Think of the groups, classes, or gatherings that could be a good fit for them.

The time you take on Sunday to meet new people communicates far more than you can ever realize. Jesus not just saw people, but He welcomed them. He calls us to do the same.

How have you helped people feel welcomed at church?

Photo by Nina Strehl.

Table Talk: Conversations on Scripture

A professor from a state school invited me to a biblical literature class. The students discussed the David and Absalom narrative from 2 Samuel on that day. I attended a Christian college full of classes interpreting, debating, and engaging scripture. This context intrigued me because it allotted me the opportunity to compare my experience with this class’ experience.

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Their discussion wrestled with David’s motives in 2 Samuel 15. The professor and students brought to the surface how David asked God to thwart Absalom, but how he devised his plan to do the same. For this class, King David wasn’t necessarily a hero but a flawed man of mixed motivations. Anyone engaging this passage has to grapple with the writer’s ambiguity of the characters’ motivations.

These students came from various faith backgrounds. Each one of them had a fascinating viewpoint to offer from the passage. This experience challenged me to read Scripture through their lenses of what they saw and heard. Often, we can find ourselves engaging Scripture out of our biases and preconceived notions.

I meet people apprehensive about reading the Bible. People fear misunderstanding the text and then misinterpreting it in discussion with others. Some of us have lost the imagination of experiencing the story of Scripture. It can become another task in the day.

Part of our problem comes is that we were never intended to engage God’s Word on our own. Community becomes a place where we wrestle, interpret, and discuss Scripture. We open ourselves to listen to other’s perspective because we recognize our limitations to understanding the text.

Galatians 6:6 says, “Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” What we see people in the Bible discussing the Scriptures: Jesus with Nicodemus, the Early Church in Acts 2:42-47, Peter with Cornelius, Paul with various churches. Engaging Scripture becomes a practice participated in community.

Students of Martin Luther recorded their conversations with him in the book Table Talk. The book references discussions at the dinner table. Table Talk gives us a picture of engaging the Bible in community. We sit at the dinner table with each other discussing passages learning from each other. It becomes part of our everyday life. Table Talk gives us a picture of engaging the Bible in community. We sit at the table with each other discussing passages learning from each other. It becomes part of our everyday life.

Eugene Peterson in Eat this Book says this about Scripture:

Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son (pg. 18)

My class visit reinforced the value of engaging Scripture in community. Not just an academic or intellectual pursuit, but in the realization that we mature not just by engaging scripture on our own but with each other. God speaks to us while we sit at the table together.

How do you engage the Scripture with the people around you? Where do you have your table talk with others on Scripture?

Photo credit by Aaron Burden.

The King of my Heart

“What did you think of the song on Sunday?” Jason, the worship director, asked the question about a new song. A group of us sat in a debrief meeting for the church service this past Sunday. The question hit me like a high school pop quiz when I forgot to do the homework. I heard the song during the week played in Jason’s office and even a portion during practice. It never occurred to me to take notice of the song.

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Sunday was exhilarating. Browncroft, the church I serve, embodied the Gospel. A group of passionate volunteers assisted people in getting connected to a community. These Browncrofters affirmed and encouraged others to take the next steps in their spiritual growth. Not in a forceful way, but an empathetic and encouraging way that said, “I took this step too, and Christ worked in my life.”

I spent that day frantically sweating the small stuff. My mind ran through the to-do list a thousand times. Each moment brought a worry that I had forgotten something. Rather than pausing to see the Gospel displayed by God’s people or listening to the new song, I rushed in my anxiety.

Honestly, I identify with Martha more than Mary. Sitting still to listen to Jesus seems foreign and unnatural. In a Martha tone a voice, I can hear my thoughts, “Jesus don’t You see the work needing to get done.”

Somehow the lie of earning God’s love and grace reoccurs in me. If I’m not producing, then I’ll disappoint God. The Gospel says otherwise, but old habits die hard.

Jason asked about the song called King of My Heart by John Mark and Sarah McMillan After the meeting, I looked up the song and listened to it. The following lyrics stopped me:

Let the King of my heart be
The wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves;
Oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be
The fire inside my veins
And the echo of my days;
Oh He is my song

You are good, good, Oh
You are good, good, Oh

I wonder how often God calls us to simply be with Him. We worry ourselves with unnecessary concerns. Our hurry from task to task can cause us to neglect seeing the beauty of Christ presence all around us. As I look back at Sunday, in my busyness I overlooked the chance to recognize Him by listening to a song.

Christ, who anchors our souls through the waves, invites us to know Him. What if at one moment today, you stopped to recognize His presence with you? What would you see?

Often, we remained tunnel vision by what we do and accomplish. Grace stops us to take notice of what we could never make happen on our own. Christ has reconciled us through His death and resurrection. Sometimes He calls us to sit like Mary because we need to pause to meet with Him.

Last night, I listened to the King of My Heart. At some point in the day, take the time to listen to this song and ask God to give you the vision to see Him. Perhaps, Christ has called you to do less so that you might rest in Him.

Photo credit by Thibaud Vaerman.

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